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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Eyes Key $3Bln Slovakian Gas Stake

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia ? Slovakia launched an international tender Thursday to sell a minority stake in its natural gas monopoly SPP, the country's largest privatization to date and one of the biggest sell-offs in central and eastern Europe.

An advertisement published in international newspapers offered to sell 49 percent of SPP, a key link for supplies of Russian natural gas to Western Europe. It did not include a deadline for expressing interest to buy the stake in the gas transportation and distribution firm.

Slovakia's adviser on the SPP sale, Credit Suisse First Boston, has said it expects strong interest in the tender from major players in the global gas sector.

Gazprom and a consortium of Germany's Ruhrgas, Gaz de France, and Italian Snam have expressed interest in the SPP stake. Germany's RWE GAS and Wintershall have also said they would jointly bid.

The new strategic shareholder, or a consortium of investors, will also acquire management rights to the company.

Analysts have estimated the firm's total value at as much as $8 billion and predict the state's income from the sale could be $3 billion or more.

Last year, SPP moved around 90 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, making Slovakia the top transit state. The company also sells natural gas to more than 1.3 million customers in Slovakia, the advertisement said.

The government earlier this week postponed its deadline for completing the SPP sale by one month until the end of January.

An adviser to Slovak Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Miklos on Monday said the Cabinet would still aim to choose the strategic investor for SPP by the end of this year.

However, even if the winner of the tender is named this year, government officials have said financial settlement of the transaction will only come in the first weeks or months of 2002.